Mayor wants all City employees on transit by 2009

According to the P-I, Nickels wants to give all 10,000 city employees transit passes (the $54 one-zone kind) by 2009, and start by subsidizing passes by $30 next year. The City now gives $15 per month to all employees.

It shows that Nickels doesn’t just talk when it comes to promoting transit. The article has this great quote from Sightline spokeswoman Elisa Murray:

It’s healthier and it’s safer: taking the bus is more than 10 times safer than driving a car” — which results in a fitter working environment, fewer accidents, fewer lost work days and increased employee productivity, Murray said.

Bizarre Streetcar Piece

The P-I ran a bizarre article about the streetcar saying how its expensive and only as fast a bus, but may get a bunch of different riders:

Mari Stobbe, a manager at the nearby Autism Spectrum Treatment and Research Center who came in for coffee a short time later, also said she’d ride the streetcar. “I’d never take a bus. I’ve never been on a bus. I’ve never had any desire to be on a bus,” she said. “(But) the streetcar seems like it would have a different feel.”

That’s the stuff I like to hear. Imagine what real rapid rail transit would do.

And the streetcar also would help handle those moving into the 6,000 housing units and 3 million square feet of office space either recently built or coming within four blocks of the line, Seattle transportation director Grace Crunican said in the same briefing.

Anyway in the name of being “balanced” there is a bunch of stuff about how silly the streetcar is, and how “SLUT” is such a funny acronym. Yuk yuk yuk.

Problems With Pay Per Mile

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Willamette Week gets at some of the problems with the mileage tax, which many have suggested as an alternate method of financing roads and managing congestion. People participating in the program mostly seemed to like it, but big advocacy groups, from environmentalists to civil libertarians, are opposed. Installing a device in people’s cars that tracks their movements will encounter a ton of political resistance.

Walkable Cities

Dan Savage points out this MSNBC article about the most walkable cities in America. DC ranks first, with Seattle sixth. Dan is stunned that Seattle could be sixth without rail transit, but I’m not suprised. Seattle is built around dense urban villages, like DC is, and has a good commute pattern centered around a few job centers in the City that has allowed a few nice walkable neighborhoods.

Since the study is based on per-capita walkable places, NYC ranks very low, ironically because density is so high.

But I am in disbelief that Los Angeles could be ranked 12th. In Downtown LA, many of the side walks aren’t even wide enough to put a few people in a row on the side walk, and I rarely saw anyone walking down the street anywhere in the city. See the image, the side walk is no more than four feet wide.

What to make of the Puget Sound Business Journal’s analysis?

Cities were ranked by their walkable urban places divided by population. Seattle scored high, even though it’s the largest city in the rankings without a meaningful rail transit system.

Survey coordinator Christopher Leinberger, a real estate developer and visiting fellow at Brookings, said rail transit plays a “significant role in catalyzing walkable urban development,” with 65 percent of the walkable urban places being served by rail transit service.

Amtrak Funding

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Neal Pierce, writing in the Seattle Times, tells me something I didn’t know:

But state initiatives are also vital. Wisconsin Transportation Secretary Frank Busalacchi heads the “States for Passenger Rail Coalition” of 30 state transportation departments appealing for an 80/20 federal-state funding split to put some real steam behind rail expansion.

Fourteen states, notes Busalacchi, already provide operating support for Amtrak corridor services — routes responsible for virtually all of Amtrak’s recent ridership gains. Cascadia service (Oregon-Washington) had 674,000 passengers last year. The “Hiawatha Service” in the Chicago-Milwaukee corridor, he boasts, has boosted ridership 48 percent, to 588,000, in the past five years, with 90 percent on-time performance.

And there have been other breakthroughs. Pennsylvania, in a 50-50 cost split with Amtrak, electrified and rehabilitated the Philadelphia-Harrisburg corridor so well it now offers 110-mile-per-hour service.

110 mph! That’s pretty speedy. You can read more about the upgrades on the Keystone Corridor Wikipedia page, or this page from the Federal Railroad Administration.

LA Subway Eliminates the Honor System

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Subway riders will now have to go through a turnstyle like in most cities:

Under a proudly distinct honor system intended to buck East Coast practices and reduce operating costs, riders buy their tickets, get on the train and present them to a sheriff’s deputy or civilian inspector — if any happen to ask.

What’s interesting to me is the fact that 95% of people do pay. So it would seem silly that the turnstyles are being put in — at a cost of $30M and $1M/yr to operate — mainly to catch the last 5%. However, the agency argues that the system is growing, and they want flexibility in ticketing:

The gates could also improve security and be used for smart cards, passes with computer chips in them that would make it more practical to charge distance-based fares and give riders more options to pay beforehand.

The Honor System
Free Riders

Congestion Pricing

This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

According to a study in London, congestion pricing works for cars, but it also benefits public transit. As the roads clear up, bus service becomes more reliable, which makes it more desirable, which makes the roads clearer, etc., etc…

Good stuff. Major caveat, of course, is that London is a large city with both an extensive subway system and sky-high gas prices, neither of which apply in Seattle. So we can’t expect the tipping point to be the same. Still, it’s more encouraging data.